The health minister and the DGHS have been saying whatever they feel like, former BSMMU VC Prof Nazrul says
Around 64% to 74% beds are empty at Covid-19 dedicated hospitals across the country, according to information obtained from the Health Ministry and Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
About 50% intensive care units (ICUs) are also empty at these hospitals. Such information was given during the daily online bulletin of DGHS.
But the bulletin did not specify exactly how many beds and ICUs are empty at these hospitals. As a result, patients with Covid-19, their relatives, or the general public have no way of knowing the actual details of the empty beds.
The question also arises as to why so many beds remain empty even after 3,000 to 4,000 people in the country are newly infected with Covid-19 every day.
Even the doctors themselves were surprised at the number of empty beds in the hospital provided by the DGHS.
There are constant complaints that people are not being able to get admissions in hospitals, they said, whereas, the information of empty hospitals beds are provided by a government organization.
Are the information provided lies or are the media writing lies, the doctors asked.
Doctors said even four months after the Covid-19 outbreak, such lack of coordination hurts them and increases human suffering.
Meanwhile, the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 has advised to centrally inform how many beds are vacant in a hospital so that patients do not suffer.
After reviewing the daily bulletin of the last one week -- out of the 6,305 beds in Covid-19 dedicated hospitals in Dhaka city, 64% to 75% beds were empty according to the bulletin data.
In Chittagong city, out of the total 656 beds, 52% were empty. In addition, 85% of the beds in the country have been shown to be empty, according to the bulletin data.
Why are the beds in the hospitals still empty even at the time of so many Covid-19 cases? The concerned doctors in reply said usually 80% of the patients with Covid-19 have mild signs and symptoms, so they do not need to go to the hospital.
For that, there are empty beds in hospitals but the patients feel comfortable staying at home in order to avoid further harassment due to lack of accurate information.
Out of 142 corona ICUs in Dhaka city,the highest 58 ICUs were used on July 9.
“There is no question as to why the beds or ICUs remain empty,” Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital (SSMCH) Assistant Professor of Virology Zahidur Rahman told this correspondent.
“Those who have been providing the daily briefings have the statistics of the beds only. Many hospitals have ICU beds, but not all of them are effective. Some do not have ventilators, some lack necessary equipment, while oxygen supply lines are damaged in some. A patient is taken to the ICU bed, only if the ICU bed has fully functioning required equipment,” Zahidur said.
Mentioning that, “The health minister and the DGHS are saying whatever they feel like, which should not happen in a crisis like this,” the former vice chancellor (VC) of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Prof Nazrul Islam said: “People are unable to get themselves admitted at hospitals, and I am regularly getting such complaints.”
How come a huge number of beds are said to be empty in corona dedicated hospitals? In reply to this question Prof Nazrul, who is also a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19, said: “This is happening due to the lack of coordination. Even after four months of the Covid-19 outbreak in the country, this incoherence hurts us and increases the sufferings of the people.”
Dr Iqbal Arslan, another Member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19, said: “It is necessary to make arrangements centrally to inform how many beds are vacant in a hospital. Then the patients will not suffer anymore. One will not have to travel from hospital to hospital.”
Things the advisory committee recommends
On July 10, the National Advisory Committee on Covid-19 recommended the management of hospital beds for the treatment of coronavirus patients.
They said the hospitals should establish inter-hospital networking to provide information on empty beds to ensure hospitalization and medical care to reduce the harassment of Covid-19 patients.
If the hospitals know the number of beds of one another, they can send a patient to the hospital where there are empty beds, provided they have no space.
The advisory committee further said it is important that the information should be posted on the website of the DGHS every day. The committee also suggested displaying such information in front of certain hospitals as well.
The neighbouring country has this system
On June 19, India's NDTV reported that Covid-19 patients would no longer have to go from one door to another for admission in hospitals. From their homes, people can find out about vacant beds available in hospitals for Covid-19 treatments by checking the designated website.
This arrangement was made under the supervision of the West Bengal government. The website of the state government's health department is constantly being updated on how many beds are vacant for corona patients in government hospitals. Not only government hospitals, but all private hospitals of the state will provide such information.
“We see patients walking around, they are not getting beds, they are not getting ICUs,” Public Health Expert Dr Lenin said, adding that “patients are suffering due to the mismanagement of the ministry and the DGHS.
“It may also happen that the tendency to show empty beds is discouraging hospitals to admit patients.
"We also need to see if there are an adequate number of doctors, nurses, and other health workers compared to the bed ratio," he further added.